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Security Needs to Start Speaking the Language of Business

At the Gartner Symposium/ITXPO, upcoming security trends for the next year include learning to speak the language of business.

Scott Ferguson

October 16, 2018

4 Min Read

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Gartner Symposium/ITXPO -- The good news for enterprise security teams is that executives and board members are starting to pay attention to a range of issues, from cyberattacks to data leaks to privacy.

The bad news is that executives and company board members are starting to pay attention to security and want answers.

What can security pros, InfoSec teams and CISOs do? For starters, they can learn the language of business to communicate better with C-Suite executives. Through a better understanding of the enterprise, security can learn how tolerant executives are to risk and how security can help the organization achieve its financial goals.

At the start of the show here on October 15, Gartner analyst Peter Firstbrook looked at several security trends that enterprises of all sizes will face in the next several years. Better communication between security and company executives topped the list.

Gartner analyst Peter Firstbrook\r\n(Source: Scott Ferguson for Security Now)\r\n

Gartner analyst Peter Firstbrook
\r\n(Source: Scott Ferguson for Security Now)\r\n

"Security teams have to change in order to respond to this trend," Firstbrook said.

What's driving this new-found interest in security are the daily headlines about the latest breach or attack. Firstbrook used examples ranging from the Equifax breach last year, to Verizon getting a $350 million discount on its acquisition of Yahoo thanks to data leaks at the company. (See Second Equifax Employee Facing Insider Trading Charges.)

Then there's ransomware, especially WannaCry, which cost businesses between $1.5 billion and $4 billion to recover from in 2017. (See WannaCry: How the Notorious Worm Changed Ransomware.)

Taken together, all these incidents have enterprises thinking more about security, but all parts of the business need to communicate to better respond to cyberthreats.

"Part of the problem is that security doesn't really speak the language of business, and the business doesn't speak the language of security, and so the security organization needs to change the way they talk to the business," Firstbrook said. "They need to understand the business risk appetite and that it's OK for the business to take risks -- that's what they do all the time. They just need to understand from security what risk they are taking, and accept that risk. Our job as security practitioners is to explain to them what can possibly go wrong, what can we do to fix it, how much it might cost to fix it and then let them decide what to do."

There are several different ways to improve communication between security and the executive team. These can include hiring consults to help bridge the communication gap, and explaining why investing in better and more secure technology can help the bottom line.

An example Firstbrook used is one company wanting to upgrade to Windows 10, which offers better security, but would require a major investment. The security team explained to the CEO how the newer version of Windows could protect against ransomware that could affect the sales cycle. In the end, the company upgraded.

Firstbrook also encouraged security teams to expand by using a combination of internal recruitment and training, investment in cloud-based security tools and automation, and outsourcing some security tasks when needed.

In addition to improved communication, Firstbrook noted in his presentation that security faces a host of other challenges in the coming years. These include:

  • Legal and other compliance and regulatory rules that are affecting digital transformation plans, as well as increasing liability as enterprises are under more pressure to protect their data.

  • Security services and tools increasingly moving to the cloud, and how enterprises can take advantage of these new services.

  • Advancements in machine learning that are helping with some tasks but still require humans to make final decisions about security.

  • Security decisions that are being made against a backdrop of geopolitical uncertainty.

  • The centralization and concentration of businesses into a handful of companies. This requires a decentralized approach for security that includes technology such as blockchain and peer-to-peer networks.

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— Scott Ferguson is the managing editor of Light Reading and the editor of Security Now. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

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Security Now

About the Author(s)

Scott Ferguson

Managing Editor, Light Reading

Prior to joining Enterprise Cloud News, he was director of audience development for InformationWeek, where he oversaw the publications' newsletters, editorial content, email and content marketing initiatives. Before that, he served as editor-in-chief of eWEEK, overseeing both the website and the print edition of the magazine. For more than a decade, Scott has covered the IT enterprise industry with a focus on cloud computing, datacenter technologies, virtualization, IoT and microprocessors, as well as PCs and mobile. Before covering tech, he was a staff writer at the Asbury Park Press and the Herald News, both located in New Jersey. Scott has degrees in journalism and history from William Paterson University, and is based in Greater New York.

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